“An Intensely Written Novel” by James R. Coggins

Against All Odds is described as “a gripping, intensely written novel.” It tells the story of Jaan Willem Mobach, his wife Johanna, and their six children, who were captured in Indonesia by the Japanese during World War Two. In different camps, they experienced horrific things. Then, two days after the end of the war, Indonesia declared its independence, ushering in another violent period marked by more torture, rape, and murder. The family’s struggles led them to ponder many things, including the nature of evil, family dynamics, and Christian faith. Daan Fousert, a noted Dutch novelist, tells the story based on two authentic memoirs written by Jaan Willem and his son Jan. To make the picture more complete, author Monique Melief tells the story of mother Johanna from her perspective. The book was originally published in Dutch as Het geluk te overleven. It was translated into English by Helen Mobach, whose late husband Gerard was another of the family’s sons.

This book came to me when Helen Mobach asked if I would agree to publish it under my Mill Lake Books imprint. This I was glad to do. It relates in graphic detail a period of history that is not well remembered today. It offers a window into the complexities of international social and political issues. It opens another window into family dynamics, as the brutal circumstances the family experienced led them to ponder what had put them into that situation in the first place and how they interacted with each other. Like most families, they struggled to understand what they were really feeling, how they communicated with each other, and how they had failed each other in numerous ways.

Most of all, I appreciate this novel for the spiritual insights it offers. This is not one of those “they trusted God and everything turned out great” stories. The Mobach family, especially son Jan, struggled to retain their faith in God in bewildering and difficult circumstances, but the story goes even deeper than that. Even while they remined faithful, they sought to understand more clearly who God is, how He works, and how He was active in their own circumstances and in the larger world swirling around them.  

Against All Odds: A fact-based story of a Dutch family in Japanese concentration camps in World War II Java was written by Daan Fousert and Monique Melief and translated into English by Helen Mobach. It was published in 2021 by Mill Lake Books, is printed and distributed by IngramSpark, and is available through bookstores and from online retailers such as Amazon.

About jrcoggins

James R. Coggins is a professional writer and editor based in British Columbia, Canada. He wrote his first novel in high school, but, fortunately for his later reputation as a writer, it was never published. He briefly served as a Christian magazine editor (for just over 20 years). He has written everything from scholarly and encyclopedia articles to jokes in Reader’s Digest (the jokes paid better). His six and a half published books include four John Smyth murder mysteries and one other, stand-alone novel. In his spare time, he operates Mill Lake Books, a small publishing imprint. His website is www.coggins.ca
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